The birth of Buddhism stems from a man by the name of Siddhartha Gutama who lived during the 5th century B.C.E in India. Siddhartha Gutama began his teachings originally as the founder of a sect of wanderer ascetics, called Sangha. After Siddhartha Gutama passed away, the community he left behind evolved into a religion-like movement, thus leading the teachings of Siddhartha to become the foundation of what is now the basis of Buddhism. Around the 3rd century B.C.E., Buddhism was declared the state religion of India.
It was by this time that Buddhism was beginning to fracture off into more concentrated sub-religions. The first of these schools was known as the Mahasanghika school. Shortly after it was established, a second stem of Buddhism was founded called Sthaviravadam, also known commonly as the “school of elders,” which quickly became the most powerful and popular. The difference between these two beliefs mostly comes down to one phenomena: that Buddha had the attributes of a god. While the Mahasanghika believed this to be true, the Sthaviravadam did not, which resulted in the separate classifications of the two philosophies. The Mahasanghika's set of beliefs, however, eventually decreased in popularity and later disappeared. This being said, while the older forms of Buddhism were stretching in to the parts of south and south-east Asia, a new form called Mahayana, or “Great Vehicle,” originated in northern India in the 1st century C.E. The reason for the new school's rapid growth was said to have come as a result of the school's more adaptable approach and doctoral innovations. Today, the traditions of Mahayana are dominant in Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam.
Despite the wide expansion of Buddhism across the globe, its popularity began to diminish greatly in India over time. The main reasons for this occurrence can be attributed to two major factors. Firstly, is that a number of Muslims began to inhabit India, which would eventually overwhelm the Buddhists. The second reason came as a result of the advancement of Hinduism, which would eventually incorporate Buddha as part of the pantheon of endless gods. In fact, he would become regarded as one of the manifestations of the Hindi god, Vishnu. As a result, Buddha's individual importance declined greatly and the practice of Buddhism became more and more scarce.
As for the actual ideals concerned with Buddhism, let's take a look at a few different concepts. To begin with, Buddhism mostly ignored subject matter concerning the afterlife, the existence of god, or stories involving the creation of the world and universe. Instead, one of the most important lessons taught by Buddha are known as the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth translates to, “all life is suffering.” Basically what this is means is that everything is changing and that whatever we find happiness in will eventually come to an end. Furthermore, it is to be understood that all of our pleasures in life are temporary and the more we indulge in them and enjoy them, the more we will miss them. The Second Noble Truth is that the cause of suffering is desire, conveying the thought that our selfish desires will always outweigh our resources, thus causing us to become unsatisfied. It is believed that if one can direct one's desires to benefit the greater good rather than his/her personal wishes, one can come to peace. This brings us to the Third Noble Truth: that by stopping desire, suffering stops as well. The entire principal is to not let oneself get too attached or dependent on material commodities, people, ideas, and so forth. In essence, this non-attachment allows us to adapt to change in an easier manner. The Fourth Noble Truth brings us to the basis that if one can follow the previous three steps, we can achieve a perception containing the right intentions, right moral views, right, action, and right mindfulness. In doing so, one can allow his/herself to have a peaceful and enlightening experience over the course of one's life, while simultaneously bettering the wellbeing of others in achieving Nirvana.
As in many religions, sin is believed to be the leading cause of human suffering. In Buddhism, however, sin does not exist. Instead, the source of suffering is thought to be caused from ignorance. All in all, the the main concept of Buddhism is that it requires no belief or faith, because it is assumed that ignorance can only be defeated by understanding. Therefore, Buddhism does not promote the concept of there being a god, although it is also not denied, making it a non-theistic practice. Buddha is not seen as a higher being, but simply an exceptional individual. Despite the fact that many Buddhist schools have integrated supernatural beings into their traditions, the idea that the human being remains responsible for one's betterment is at the core of the philosophy.
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